UNESCO’s project on poverty has focused on a conceptual analysis of poverty within a human rights framework. Through this project, the Organization seeks to stimulate commitment within the international community to assume its moral obligation to take action for the eradication of poverty, and to contribute towards the realization of human rights for all peoples without discrimination of any kind.
Fundamental transformations in societies should be based on human dignity, freedom and equality. Democracies therefore have to enable the participation of all actors of the globalized world – meaning that men and women should be treated as equals. Poverty excludes human beings from participation in society and creates the conditions for material and legal marginalization. This is often intensified by a lack of concrete and pertinent policies addressing the needs of the poor, and the persistence of policies, processes and ideologies that enable poverty.
UNESCO’s project is a response to this challenge. It advances the idea that linking poverty and human rights creates an opening where the former concept can be understood and addressed in terms of deprivation of capabilities or lack of empowerment, as a denial and even a violation of human rights, rather than in terms of income or charity. People living in poverty may lack formal rights or, where formal rights exist, be denied substantive, equitable access to the rights formally accorded to them. These people are placed in a situation of injustice, of vulnerability and are deprived of dignity – a core element of all human rights. When people are unable to enjoy rights such as adequate food, water, clothing, the highest attainable standard of health and adequate housing, they are unable to live decent lives. Poverty also places pressure on institutions and civil society to undertake legal courses of action to define effective public policies to fight against this threat.
Why a manual?
The purpose of this manual is to collaborate with grass-roots organizations, in particular with NGOs, in defining the content of economic, social and cultural rights (ESC rights) and to empower the actions of NGOs working to tackle poverty in the field.
By highlighting the interpretation techniques used by judges throughout a series of landmark cases on ESC rights around the world, the manual elaborates standards for poverty eradication extracted from comparative case law. Indeed, the manual supports the approach that highlighting the interpretational efforts of courts will channel the voices of the poor and provide principles and precedents for action.
The manual is based on the idea that the enforcement of ESC rights will become a reality and will increase the clarification of rights for the right holder, the duty bearer and civil society as a whole. It will provide not only locus standi to NGOs, but empower their role in the field.
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